Conversation with Dr Sorpong Peou: What Cambodia should do to gain international trust? - KNT Diary

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Friday, October 4, 2019

Conversation with Dr Sorpong Peou: What Cambodia should do to gain international trust?



Cambodian domestic politics and foreign policy | Cambodia could not take authoritarian Singapore as a role model for its development because...

Dr Peou Sorpong and Mr Hassan | The Cambodian Daily Khmer's Idea Talk | 03 October 2019

Dr Sorpong Peou is Full Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies. He is also a College Fellow at McLaughlin College, York University, Toronto, and a Member of the Eminent Persons Group at the Asian Political and International Studies Association. He is also a former President of Science for Peace, based at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Some of his many books are International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; Intervention and Change in Cambodia: Towards Democracy? NY, Singapore and Thailand: St. Martin Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Silkworm, 2000; Cambodia: Change and Continuity in Contemporary Politics, ed. Aldershot, UK: International Library of Social Change in Asia Pacific, Ashgate, 2000.

Transcription


In this video, Dr Peou Sorpong talks about Cambodia's foreign relations and domestic politics. In term of foreign relations, China and neighbouring countries are taken into account. He contends that China can be a good friend of Cambodia but if Cambodia is getting too close to China alone Cambodia would become a slave of China. Being too close to China would also create conflict with Cambodia’s neighbouring countries Thailand and Vietnam. Hence, Cambodia must not be China’s enemy nor its slave.

He emphasises that geopolitically Cambodia has to be friendly with China which serves as a counterbalance against the neighbouring countries. Dr Peou sees that China is facing an economic slowdown. It has few friends in the region. In the Indo-Pacific region, Japan, India and Australia are balancing against China.

On the other hand, as China's President Xi Jinping consolidating his power, China politically rollbacks to the Mao Zedong era in which 6 million people were killed. Internal political tensions might one day explode. So it is dangerous for a small country like Cambodia to be an ally only with China.

As far as national policy is concerned, he advises that Cambodia should not take Singapore, which is politically under authoritarianism with one party domination (PAP) but economically developed, as a role model for national development. He offers some reasons to justify his advice. Singapore has a strong rule of law and corruption-free. It has a small population of merely 5 million. All this quality is not applicable for Cambodia which is poor in rule of law, corrupted and a larger population. Therefore, Cambodia has to maintain democracy under a multi-party system.

The trust deficit is the real issue in Cambodian politics. For CPP, it is the survival politics and regime security. Forcing it to relinquish power would make it trying to consolidate its power even more.

Dr Peou mentions that Cambodia is operated in the heart of survival politics in the logic of ‘killed or be killed’. Cambodia needs to change that logic to ‘live and let live’. This requires a trust-building measure among rival politicians. War of words that continues in the Cambodian political scene will never be good for national unity – the two contrasting elements. Focusing on national interest instead of ideological interest will enhance national unity.

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